Did you know that anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in children?
Fearful and anxious behaviour is common in childhood and most children learn to cope with a range of normal fears and worries.
But when children become anxious more easily, more often and more intensely than other children, they may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Here are some signs that your child may need help:
- they feel anxious more than other children of their age and level
- anxiety stops them participating in activities at school or socially
- anxiety interferes with their ability to do things that other children their age do easily
- the fears and worries seem out of proportion to the issues in their life.
How anxiety affects children mentally and physically
Anxiety can affect children both mentally and physically. In addition to feeling highly anxious, children’s thinking is usually affected. The threat or danger they are concerned about appears to them to be much greater than it actually is. Thinking about the situation that causes them to be anxious makes them more worried and tense.
Anxiety can also result in physical difficulties such as sleeplessness, diarrhoea, stomach aches and headaches. It can also involve irritability, difficulty concentrating and tiredness.
Children with anxiety may develop their own strategies to try to manage situations that cause them distress. Often this involves trying to avoid the situation or having a parent deal with it for them.
Avoiding a situation makes it more likely that the child will feel anxious and be unable to manage it the next time. This behaviour makes it more difficult for the child to cope with everyday stresses at home, at school and in social settings.
How do you notice anxiety in children?
Children with anxiety difficulties are often quiet and obedient. This can lead to their difficulties being overlooked.
It is important to take note of children’s worries so that their difficulties can be addressed sooner rather than later.
Here are some things to look out for:
- fear and avoidance of a range of issues and situations
- headaches and stomach aches that seem to occur when the child has to do something that is unfamiliar or that they feel uneasy about
- sleep difﬁculties, including difﬁculty falling asleep, nightmares and trouble sleeping alone
- lots of worries and a strong need for reassurance.
Anxiety and other mental health difficulties
Children with anxiety can experience more than one type of anxiety difficulty or disorder.
Anxiety can be more common in children with other developmental difficulties. For instance, it is common in children with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome and also can tend to occur in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
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